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Rokkansenteret ISF

Senter for forskning på sivilsamfunn & frivillighet


Civic participation and public health

Project No: 10023.13
Period: 2016 - 2017

In this project we will study the relationship between voluntary work, health and quality of life- both on an individual and a contextual level. The main variables studied in the projectwill be self-reported health and quality of life, life satisfaction and different measures of happiness.

1. It is undisputable that people who are active in organizations generally report better health and express higher life satisfaction, compared to those who are not active (Wollebæk & Arnesen 2012). But the question remains whether favorable health outcomes are the direct result of organizational activity, or whether this relationship is the result of a selection bias where people who report high quality of life and good health have a higher probability of being involved in organizational activities? Civil participation and quality of life/health can also be mutually reinforcing (Thoits and Hewitt 2001). Positive effects of social relations can also counteract the negative effects of social demands and overexertion.

The project will make use of longitudinal data (panel data) with multi-dimensional indicators that enables non-linear correlations. The analyses will be based on the Norwegian Citizen Panel and the NorLAG-study, where individuals have been interviewed at two different occasions (2002-3 and 2007-8)

2. Organizational membership is often used as an indicator of social capital, and is also strongly correlated with social trust on an aggregated level. In the project we will also study variations between local communities in Norway. Since Norway is a country with a comparatively high level of social capital, this is a strict test of the relationship between aggregated social capital, public health and quality of life. The results will therefore potentially be of theoretical interest beyond the Norwegian case.

This part of the project will make use of large scale population studies from 2010 and 2013, carried out by the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi). Combined, the two studies include 35 000 respondents, nested in more than 400 municipalities. To generate measures of organizational activity in city districts, we will make use of a survey from 2014, carried out by the project Support for the Affluent Welfare State (financed by the Research Council of Norway).